[Originally posted on my former blog, Michael Runs the Gamut]

As a former actor, I understand the trials of marketing oneself (and accept them, begrudgingly). Many of the things we do in life are contests of a sort. Job interviews are a competition against others to see who will win the prize of being hired. Auditions are job interviews in which the actor often competes publicly against his/her fellow job seekers. Writers submit queries or pitch their work to agents to hopefully join the ranks of the published.

Gaining access to the agents is a sometimes difficult and costly thing (at conferences, for example). But contests can sometimes help get your work noticed. Are they worth doing? Of course they are.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an event called the 3-Day Novel Contest. It’s similar to NaNoWriMo, except the contestants only have three days instead of thirty (over the Labor Day weekend) to write a much shorter novel than NaNo’s goal of 50,000 words. The end result is usually closer to a very long short story, or very short novella, take your pick. At the end of three days, I was exhausted, but had a reasonably constructed novelette that actually was coherent. A miracle. It was an eighty-six page, 20,300 word supernatural medical mystery called Everything’s Okay at Restful Pines.

The winner of the contest gets their “novel” published. Obviously, that would be a prize worth having. The winner will be announced sometime early next year, so I will edit and polish the story some more while I wait.

Having an agent look at some of my other writing in the meantime would be a good thing. I have one finished novel, If a Butterfly, which (I have stated elsewhere) is way too long for most agents to consider, so it might soon take a back burner to my second novel, The Jagged Man, which needs some more rehearsing before it can go on the stage.


[Update: February 12, 2021]: Butterfly did get put on hold while I finished and published The Jagged Man (in 2015). You can get The Jagged Man (in ebook format) here.

Another book stepped into my lineup after that, a non-fiction book about how my brother ended up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s called Aggravated: The True Story of How a Series of Lies Sent an Innocent Man to Prison. Quite a mouthful. We just usually call it Aggravated. It’s available in both print and ebook versions here.

It’s Butterfly’s turn next. Find out more about that at its website.

 Everything’s Okay at Restful Pines didn’t win the 3-Day Novel contest, but I did rework and edit it into something I like. I’m thinking of including it in a collection of poems and other short stories called A Mixed Bag. I might look at publishing that after Butterfly.

 I did win a contest I entered in 2020. I submitted the first page of If a Butterfly in the Gutsy Great Novelist Page One contest, and won second place out of 604 entrants.


Anything you can do to receive honest criticism of your work can be useful to you as a writer. Have you entered any contests? What was your experience? Let me know below.


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